“Breastfeeding is totally natural, but it doesn’t always come naturally,” says Kristine Cox, BSN, RN, patient care coordinator at Methodist South Hospital. “With guidance and a few breastfeeding tips, new moms can breastfeed with confidence, knowing that their baby is getting all the nutrition they need for good health.
Once your baby is born, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you exclusively breastfeed for six months. However, only half of American women make it that long. Here’s how you can reach that maternity milestone with your little one.
Breastfeeding Tips for Increased Milk Production
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 60% of moms stop breastfeeding before they originally planned. Various challenges, especially the difficulty of producing enough milk, can make some moms stop breastfeeding altogether.
For help increasing your milk supply, try these tips:
- Don’t offer any food other than breast milk when your baby is hungry. Formula and solid foods will fill your baby’s tummy and reduce the need for breastfeeding.
- Feed your baby with both breasts every time. Swap from one breast to the other when your baby stops suckling or swallowing.
- Only stop a breastfeeding session when your baby refuses to eat more. Stopping early can slow your milk production.
- If necessary, work with an expert. Find a lactation consultant to help ensure your baby latches on properly and how to hold your baby properly.
In some cases, the opposite of underproduction occurs, and you produce more milk than your baby can eat. As a result, your breasts become overly full, making breastfeeding difficult. If this happens, try these tips:
- Burp your baby often to see if they have room for more food.
- Feed anytime your baby signals they are hungry.
- Hand-express or pump milk to relieve full breasts and make it easier for your baby to latch on.
- Offer a single breast for as many feedings as your baby can handle in a two-hour period.
Knowing When to Breastfeed
New moms often begin breastfeeding as soon as their baby is born. This gives an early opportunity to bond. After the first feeding, your feeding schedule may be as unique as your baby.
No matter what schedule you follow, these general breastfeeding tips will support your baby’s good health:
Feed your baby every one to three hours in the first few days of life. During this time, feeding may take 20 minutes or longer per breast. Despite this, your child may lose up to 10% of their body weight. Don’t be alarmed. This is normal. It doesn’t indicate that your baby isn’t getting enough nutrition.
First Six Months
Your baby should begin growing and gaining weight within a couple of weeks. As your newborn grows, feedings will occur less often and for shorter periods of time. Feedings may occur every two to four hours. However, some babies prefer to cluster feed (feeding every 30 minutes or every hour). Depending on your baby, you may breastfeed up to 12 times a day, with each session taking as little as five to 10 minutes per breast. Following a feeding, your baby should be content and sleepy.
Up to a Year
When you begin feeding solids to your baby, continue breastfeeding when your baby seems hungry. Your milk will continue to provide essential nutrients.
After a Year
Babies who eat more solids may only breastfeed once or twice a day. Others may continue to breastfeed more often. Let your little one determine how often to breastfeed.
Lifestyles for Better Breastfeeding
For the best possible breastfeeding experience, pay attention to your lifestyle.
“What you do has a big effect on your breastfeeding experience,” Cox says. “Your daily routine affects the amount and quality of your milk — and how much energy you have throughout the day.”
Two factors that can affect your chances of having the best possible breastfeeding experience are related to diet and exercise:
- Get plenty of good calories. Feeding another person takes a lot out of you. To keep up, you’ll need to eat more calories than usual. Maintain a healthy, balanced diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals. Limit your intake of coffee or other caffeinated beverages, especially if your baby becomes fussy or has difficulty sleeping. Also, it can be difficult to maintain vitamin and mineral levels during this time. Supplements may help. Ask your provider if they’re right for you.
- Move your body. A little exercise can go a long way toward improving your breastfeeding experience. Research has found that women who walked regularly produced breast milk with increased levels of a compound called 3SL, which is potentially “beneficial to a baby’s long-term health.”
More Than Breastfeeding Tips
Your milk flows well, you know all the breastfeeding positions and you’ve memorized countless tips. Yet you still have questions. What do you do?
- Remember that breastfeeding is a unique journey for every mother. Don’t expect your experience to mirror those of other mothers.
- Talk to other mothers and learn from their experiences. While your experience will be unique, other mothers may have breastfeeding tips or tricks you haven’t yet tried or even heard about. Some of those tips could help you. Talk to family or friends for advice and ask your provider about local or online support groups for breastfeeding mothers.
- Reach out to a lactation consultant. Getting expert, individualized lactation assistance can help you make sense of your unique breastfeeding journey. Lactation support is often available via phone, allowing you to get assistance from the comfort of your home.
- Seek out additional resources. Eating a healthy diet is essential to ensuring your baby maintains good health. For help finding affordable healthy food, health services or nutrition counseling, contact the USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
“Breastfeeding is a wonderful way to bond with your baby and reduce the risk of health problems, including sudden infant death syndrome [SIDS],” Cox says. “It also makes life simpler by eliminating the need for bottles and formula. If you’re having a hard time with the process, don’t give up. Seek help that empowers you to breastfeed as long as you’d like.”
Ready to Properly Nourish and Nurture Your Baby?
If you need help during your breastfeeding journey, the breastfeeding and lactation support services at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare can provide assistance so that you and your baby achieve breastfeeding success.Find Breastfeeding / Lactation Support